A Senior Lecturer in UKZN’s School of Social Sciences, Dr Joseph Rudigi Rukema, was the Chairman of a regional conference on peace building in the Great Lakes Region.
The Conference, held in Goma (North-Kivu Province) Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was organised by Sub-Saharan Africa University (SSAU) in North-Kivu (Goma) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in collaboration with the Durban University of Technology’s Peace Building Programme, and the International Centre of Non-violence in Durban.
Rukema is also Founder and President of the Management Council of the Sub-Saharan Africa University, President of the Africa-International Alumni Association and Founder of the Centre for Languages and Culture Promotion.
The Conference brought together 100 delegates from the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.
Participants included academics; policy makers; civil society members; representatives of local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), members of the media and delegates from community based organisations.
The aims of the Conference were to:
* Make the concepts of conflict transformation and peace-building better understood and accepted, and to encourage their application to current Great Lakes issues.
* Establish or strengthen networks between different universities and colleges which currently teach in the area of peace-building or which may do so in the future.
* Establish or strengthen linkages with non-university bodies (government, NGOs, faith communities) so as to promote the principles and practice of peace building.
The Conference was followed by visits and intense interactions with faith-based communities in Goma with particular focus on the role they play in promoting peace and the culture of non-violence.
Rukema says he strongly believes that the role of universities is not only about teaching and conducting research but also about what is taught and how results from research can be used as tools to transform the socio-economic and political conditions of communities.
‘This means how do we convert our challenges into opportunities through teaching and research? The role of institutions of education is to transform society through teaching, research and to put forward innovative ideas to solve problems that affect humanity, including all forms of conflicts.
‘Education gives us all human values ??that distinguish us from other natural species. These values ??include the capacity to prevent conflict and manage it whenever it occurs and to introduce peacebuilding where violence and injustice are the order of the day,’ said Rukema.
‘While institutions of learning play a creative role in shaping and reshaping our societies through teaching and research, for sustainable development to be achieved they need to create partnerships with different existing institutions such as faith based communities, civil society, NGOs and government institutions.’
‘This means that development is a collective process and cannot be achieved if left to one sector of the society. It is in this framework that the Conference was organised bringing together academics, policy makers, and members of faith-based communities, NGOs, and the media to reflect collectively on issues of peace building in the Great Lakes Region,’ said Rukema.